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Unemployment Applications Hit 43-Year Low

The Labor Department's latest findings indicate the number of people in the U.S. applying for unemployment benefits has dropped to levels not seen since 1973, signaling that U.S. businesses are laying off fewer workers.

On Nov. 17, the Labor Department announced the number of applications for unemployment benefits in the previous week fell by 19,000. Since mid-October, the overall number of unemployment applications per week was 253,000, The Associated Press reports.

Applications for unemployment benefits have remained below 300,000 for the past 89 weeks, the longest prolonged drop in more than four decades. Economists look to weekly unemployment application figures to determine the number of layoffs occurring in the U.S. job market.

The Labor Department’s latest findings signal U.S. businesses have dramatically reduced their number of layoffs since the Great Recession began. During October, the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent.

Economist Daniel Dilver of JPMorgan noted that the Labor Department’s figures “sent an upbeat signal about the labor market.”

If the economy and labor market are improving at a steady rate, the question arises over why so many Americans feel such economic anxiety. President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise victory on Nov. 8 has been largely attributed to working class anger over the economy.

New polling indicates that perceptions of the economy are largely driven by partisanship. Gallup surveys found that only 16 percent of self-identifying Republicans believed that the economy was improving between Nov. 1-7, just before the election. In the week that followed, from Nov. 9-13, Republicans’ belief confidence in the economy jumped to 49 percent, MarketWatch reports.

Conversely, self-identifying Democrats’ optimism over the economy dampened after the election. While 61 percent of Democrats thought the economy was improving from Nov. 1-7, only 46 percent were optimistic from Nov. 9-13.

On Nov. 17, Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen testified before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress that there was no way of telling how Trump’s election would impact the U.S. economy, The New York Times reports.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Yellen said. “There’s a great deal of uncertainty ... We will be watching the decisions that Congress makes and updating our economic outlook as the policy outlook becomes clearer.”

Yellen added that the Federal Reserve was still planning to raise interest rates in December.

“The evidence we’ve seen since we met in November is consistent with our expectation of strengthening growth and an improving labor market,” Yellen said. “I do think the economy is making very good progress toward our goals.”

Sources: AP via ABC News, MarketWatch, The New York Times / Photo credit: Day Donaldson/Flickr

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